I am looking to develop and market a product using Jewsih music and am wandering how this works as far as using other peoples music trademarks, copyright, and so on. Can one use a song and just change it a little? Does one need permission from the original composer?

Any direction would be really appreciated.

Answer:

According to most halachic authorities copyright law is binding in halachah, this is far from being self-understood, and each question must be treated on individual merits. As a general rule, altering a song a little would not be sufficient to “detach” it from its original producer, and he would retain basic “rights” to the new version. Under such circumstances (producing a new song which is only a slightly altered version of an original song) permission must be requested from the original producer.

Sources: The source material for this question is too voluminous to include here. However, one of the principle sources that address a similar question is Noda Biyehuda (Tinyana, Choshen Mishpat, no. 24). Although Divrei Malkiel (vol. 3, no. 157) severely limits the application of Noda Biyehuda’s ruling in a modern sense of intangible property, many poskim have written or issued rulings that uphold copyright legislation and extend it, by a number of halachic mechanisms (including laws of benefit, the principle of dina demalchusah, a prohibition of utilizing another’s expenditure at his loss, and others), to questions of intangibles. See also Techumin (vol. 6) which also discusses a similar case.

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